A Clockwork Orange beginning.
To say the least, Koh Lanta – shared with Lili and Mandy and our new B*tchz addition: Dave – was wonderful. As I mentioned in my last post, we served our purpose: to catch up and spend time together as we once did on a regular basis during high school in Glyfada in Athens… but, this time, in Thailand…and my oh my, was it wonderful! (Can’t wait for our next exotic ‘catch-up’!)
We didn’t actually do much. We spent countless hours talking… giggling…sharing stories about Mandy’s dive masters training in Koh Tao… Lili’s job at Google in London… Nico’s and my plans for future travelling and the possibility of living in France…or Singapore… or Saudi Arabia… or nowhere at all… and maybe choosing to take up a life of travelling… somewhere… everywhere… (for those that may be worrying, I’m not being serious).
These conversations usually emerged whilst drinking Mai Tai cocktails… and sometimes whilst drinking a Chang beer or some other cocktail concoction when trying to steer away from the Mai Tai norm… sometimes they took place over dinner in Family Resort… where Mandy and I stayed each night… sometimes in the port town of Sawadan nearer to where Lilz and Dave stayed… and sometimes in Lilz and Dave’s luxury resort: Lanta Crown Plaza.
On some occasions – particularly when drinking in a little gem we found on our last evening, Barracuda Bar – we acquired a state of ‘cocktail tipsiness’… that resulted in us taking far too many themed photographs that I shall endeavour to upload onto this post…
On other occasions, we drank what we perceived to be HUGE quantities of cocktails…only to feel little or no effect. (We then realised we were being grossly ripped off, and speculated that our lovely Thai friends weren’t putting any alcohol at all in these wonderfully 150 baht-priced cocktails)….but… we still enjoyed our conversations.
Nonetheless, as Lili and Dave ventured further north of the island to have their kip each night… Mandy and I were faced with a twice daily trek to and from their resort to return home. This came with its own trials and tribulations as we both sought tuk-tuks to transport us to and fro… each time necessitating long walks between each failed attempt of securing a fair transport price. Our time at Koh Lanta… in the absence of ordinary sightseeing excursions and in the absence of a scooter… revolved around our experiences of tuk-tuks and tuk-tuk drivers.
So – what is a tuk-tuk? It’s literally a two-wheeled scooter with an attached passenger carriage. This passenger carriage can hold about 3 or so people… and depending on the power of the engine and the craziness of the driver… can be either a pleasant or a debilitating drive. We experienced both: and the latter, admittedly, was more remarkable and memorable than the former.
But, first: for some background… (J That’s for Isla, Alice and Jude, who always embrace the long-windedness of my ‘background’ storytelling).
In one tuk-tuk pursuit, an older Thai lady with a white, sun-blocked face and a shy, unsmiling child in the passenger seat of the tuk-tuk stopped …inviting us… by gesture… for a ride. Mandy’s first question: How much?
‘200 baht’, the woman replies.
Having been advised that 150 baht was a good price by Lilz and Dave earlier that morning, I make an unlikely offer of 100 baht, hoping the woman would eventually accept a rate of 150.
She smiles… pauses… and then, agrees.
Mandy and I look at one another shocked, astounded by our own negotiation skills and board the tuk-tuk.
We are then driven 50m or so north to a building … and the woman stops, takes her child off the passenger seat and points as if to communicate she is merely dropping off her child before continuing on the journey to Lanta Crown Plaza Resort.
Upon her return, she is accompanied by a man, wearing an official-looking, fluorescent orange tuk-tuk vest. We then re-iterate our agreed price, and he frowns and smiles – almost simultaneously – and projects ‘no’.
Mandy pleaded, ‘but she agreed! She agreed 100 baht. You can’t say 150 when she agreed 100 baht!’
After minutes of repeating our pleas… and minutes of him kindly and simply repeating ‘no’… and minutes of each party looking on into space as if in contemplation about who was going to budge first… Mandz and I … exited the tuk-tuk.
So much for sound negotiation skills.
We walk on… we bicker… we laugh at the irony of moments before… we had aimed for a price of 150 baht… and despite the course of events that followed, we essentially got what we wanted… Nonetheless, we got off the tuk-tuk. For what? For principle?
What of principle? The next tuk-tuk to stop along its’ course carried with it the same haggling malarkey… 250 baht… no, 100 baht… no 180 baht…. No, 150 baht… 160 baht – last price.
Okay. 160 baht.
Brilliant. Our ‘principle’ cost us 10 extra baht (a mere 20 or so pence)… and a loss of invaluable time we could have spent with Lili and Dave… you live, you learn.
Our 3am tuk-tuk journey… after our last cocktails at Barracuda Bar… carried with it its’ own drama. I’m still not too sure how I feel about it… and I’m not quite sure how Mandy feels about it either… I’m not even sure I know how to capture my emotion after the incident… as so much time seems to have passed since it occurred…
Either way…this time, we recognised the tuk-tuk driver… he was the same dread-lock haired Thai man with a scarf and jean jacket that we had ridden with the night before… who shared insight about the demographic in Koh Lanta… who advised us to visit the three-day ‘festival’, as he called it (it turned out to be a Muslim night market) taking place en route to Family Resort from Sawadan… and finally, who had charged us 150 baht for the same journey the night before…
I was secretly relieved when entering his tuk-tuk, thinking – for once – that we wouldn’t need to negotiate or haggle a price…however, as we finally reached our destination, and started taking out our money to pay, he asserted it would cost us 200 baht.
To cut a long story short, we refused to pay him that amount – again, out of principle. He refused to accept less, and our spark of a connection dissolved in a matter of seconds… without exaggeration, our beloved tuk-tuk driver refused to make eye contact with us… refused to answer our questions… refused to take the money we were willing to pay into his hands to the point I ended up begging him to just take the money so that we could leave and sleep in peace. I left 160 baht on the surface of the passenger seat, and Mandy and I walked away…
His silence communicated bottled up anger, as the Thais aren’t really known for ‘losing face’… or shouting… or arguing… My imagination – during that walk to our bamboo hut – made me feel as though he was secretly following us home… ready to take out his anger on us in the night… in the quiet, isolated confines of our hut… Mandy pulled me into the shadows as we walked, as she may have imagined something similar to me…
…When we finally lay down on our beds…we reflected and discussed on the moments prior… asking ourselves whether the whole ordeal was really worth it…for 50 baht? 1 pound? Is principle really worth 1 pound? Is it really worth the way all parties felt afterwards? Sometimes I think ‘yes’… other times, ‘no’… arguably, principle is worth much more than that… but, from the moment we both felt unsafe as a consequence – even if our lack of safety was only a figment of our imaginations – maybe it does go to show that it wasn’t worth it… I still don’t know… I don’t think Mandy knows either… but, what was done, was done, nonetheless.
The following day, I experienced what I referred to earlier as my fun, yet ‘debilitating’ tuk-tuk drive… now, this was the best value-for-money tuk-tuk experience we had ever had… and we were lucky! We had the most caring, focused and equally inexperienced tuk-tuk driver yet!
With Lili, Mandy and I in the passenger carriage… we managed to tuk-tuk-tuk round the clock around the island… slowly but surely… sometimes up hills (when we weren’t kindly asked to get off the tuk-tuk and walk)… and quite frequently down the hills (as the tuk-tuk – in the downhills – had enough cc power to function semi-safely)… we sometimes rode in the centre of our lane on the road, but more frequently, I felt my back leaning towards the ditch on our left… which scared me to such an extent that I often needed to bite my left hand to politely stifle a scream whilst holding on to the railings for my life…
On some occasions, I managed to relax just enough to take numerous (what I call) ‘artsy’ photographs of random things (goodness – they were all terrible photos)… and on other occasions, I heard Lili join me in my cries… begging our wonderful tuk-tuk driver to move more to the right as we both feared what we believed to be an inevitable, upcoming crash…
But what’s incredible about this tuk-tuk journey is that it was our own… and we had none other than our honourable Dave as our first-time, tuk-tuk driver…
When all was well and over, and the B*tchz team went on a quest to buy various Mr Messy, Mr Jihad, Little Miss Sunshine or Mr Same Same But Different T-shirts in Sawadan… we also found the perfect tuk-tuk T-shirt for our marvellous tuk-tuk driver, Dave.
…and this is how our time together in Koh Lanta ended… tickity-tackity-tockity round the clock…like spooky kookity-kooks in and out of tuk-tuks drinking Mai Thais and Bloody Mary’s in Barracuda Bar with none-other-than-the-great Mr Tuk-Tuk. 🙂
A silly (and less disturbing) Clockwork Orange ending.